Athletic, Academic Standout Brittany Simpson Remembered for 'Spirit, Smile'

By: Mike Jones, Sports Editor
1/25/2006

In what is now, sadly, 18 all-too-short years, Brittany Simpson made quite an impact.

Simpson, described as "a friend to everyone" with a "passion for life" by her coaches, friends and associate pastor, passed away Tuesday in a car accident near Madisonville while she was travelling back to college in Sherman. It's the second former Montgomery County high school basketball standout to pass away in the last month, with former Caney Creek star Amie Kay losing her life from injuries sustained in a wreck on FM 1314 in December.

The loss of their friend had a big effect on three campuses - The John Cooper School, where Simpson graduated from high school last May; The Woodlands High School, which she attended for three years; and Austin College, where she was a top student and member of the women's basketball team.

"The thing that stood out that made Brittany strong was her friends and her ability to be a friend, her family and her faith," said Larry Cotton, associate pastor at Stonebridge Church where Simpson was a member. "Those three things were outstanding in her life. She made an impact on other students' lives. She made a difference in the people she was around."
Cotton, who has been close to the family for 10 years, spoke at an upper school assembly at the Cooper School on Wednesday, where friends of Brittany and school officials reflected on her life. David Simpson, Brittany's father, and Justin LeBlanc, her brother, were also at the assembly.

Simpson, who was a Greater Houston all-star and first-team SPC as a point guard during her senior season on the Cooper School girls varsity basketball team, played her first three years of high school basketball at The Woodlands. Her friends and former coaches for the Lady Highlanders took the court in tears against Oak Ridge on Tuesday night after hearing about Brittany just hours before the opening tip-off.

"She was just an incredible person," said TWHS head girls varsity basketball coach Dana Bruton, who said Brittany attended the team's practice on Monday. "We're really going to miss her."

Brittany's head basketball coach at Cooper, Rod Gold, like others, fought back tears while talking about his former basketball standout and friend.

"It's pure sadness," said Gold. "I thanked her parents when she first came to our school. The hurt for me deep down inside is with her family. She was so well-liked by everybody at our school. Her family is such great people. I really feel for them."
Gold said Brittany made a huge impact at Cooper despite only going there for one year.

"She didn't just make an impact on her circle of senior classmates," he said. "She made a big impact on our Middle School kids and stretching into our Lower School. She was just so energetic. Her charisma was felt by everybody. As a coach, you could see her talent. But I saw the quality individual more than that. You can look at how many points, assists, steals and all-star credits she had and see she was very valuable. But, it's moreso about the quality of the individual she was. I've gotten to know her family really well. It was just for one year, but it seemed like twelve. You can understand why she's such a great person because she comes from such a great family."

Gold said Brittany had so much going for her in life.
"She was very goal-oriented," he said. "She had all her goals in life set. You wonder how something like that could happen to someone so perfect."

Gold said he talked to Brittany recently.
"She called me last week to tell me about her playing time," said Gold. "That she got into a game. She was pretty thrilled about it. I was proud of her for that. It's something she's wanted. Basketball and family were her life. She certainly succeeded in both."

At Austin College on Wednesday, coaches, administrators, teachers and friends were mourning the loss of their friend. Besides being on the basketball team, Brittany was a member of the Austin College Leadership Institute.

"The entire Austin College community is saddened by this tragedy," said Austin College president Oscar Page. "Many of our students make their presence known well beyond the borders of campus. Still a freshman, Brittany had already begun taking full advantage of the opportunities available to her both on and off campus. Our thoughts and prayers are with her family, friends, classmates, teachers and the many people whose lives she touched."

"Brittany was a wonderful young woman who graced our campus with her positive personality and smile," said Austin College vice president for student affairs and athletics Tim Millerick. "She found Austin College the year she participated with The John Cooper School in the Sherman High School Holiday Basketball Tournament, during which her team competed in our facility. She was a special person that we will all miss very much."

John Cooper head of school Michael Maher said the loss of Brittany was felt by everyone at the school.
"Brittany was only with us at Cooper for her senior year, but her impact and influence in the school community was remarkable because of her spirit, cheer and passion," said Maher. "She was passionate about basketball and her academics. She was our gym rat. If the gym was open, she was in there shooting. By virtue of that, she became friends with way more than the girls on the basketball team and way more than her senior class."
John Cooper School athletic director Mike Cooper remembered Brittany fondly.

"Today everyone is emotionally drained," said Cooper, who said, among other ways the school will honor her, the boys and girls basketball teams will wear black ribbons with her initials and No. 24 on their jerseys for the remainder of the season. "It's a sad day for the Cooper community. All our prayers and concerns go out to her family.

"Brittany was a friend to everyone. She was a quality person that you could count on. She made a huge impact not only with the basketball program but with the entire school community the minute she walked on campus. Her confidence was contagious. You could see the spirit about her in her eyes. She was always smiling and happy to be here. It almost seemed like she had been here all her life."

Note: A memorial service to honor and celebrate the life of Brittany Simpson will take place Sunday at 3 p.m. at The Fellowship of The Woodlands Church, located at One Fellowship Drive, at Highway 242 and Gosling Road.